COLUMN: Agreement secures use of Wirksworth sporting facilities

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The quality of the resources and facilities a person has access to can significantly affect their learning while at school.

Students at Anthony Gell School (AGS) have benefitted enormously from being able to use the climbing room, fitness suite and sports hall in Wirksworth Leisure Centre, for lessons and extra-curricular activities, since the centre’s creation in the year 2000. A joint use agreement, between the school and Derbyshire Dales District Council, has meant that thousands of young learners have had enhanced experiences during the last 17 years - with hundreds going on to access the centre and its facilities long after leaving school.

Head of Anthony Gell School Wirksworth Malcolm Kelly

Head of Anthony Gell School Wirksworth Malcolm Kelly

Readers will however no doubt be aware of the decision taken by the district council to actively seek to move the management of the Wirksworth Leisure Centre, along with that of the other four centres in the Dales, to a third party. This move, along with the fact that the joint use agreement had come to an end, threatened to severely restrict the access to this centre for children in our area. There was no guarantee that a new management company would be open to the idea of Anthony Gell students using the sports facilities from 8am to 5.30pm every day whilst in school.

It was important therefore for the school to act decisively, as we sought to protect the education of the youngsters in and around Wirksworth. We were fortunate to have tremendous support from the Anthony Gell Foundation and a community sports group, consisting of local users of the centre. We have, with the support of others, spent a great deal of time during the last 12 months negotiating a way forward with representatives from Derbyshire Dales.

I’m delighted to be able to tell readers that new and improved legal papers were signed at the end of July, which means students of AGS will have continued access to the facilities in Wirksworth Leisure Centre. Users of the centre will also be able to continue to use the school’s facilities, outside of school hours, irrespective of which management group takes on the running of this centre. The new agreements have the potential to safeguard the community use of these facilities for the next 20 years.